Annual or perennial herbs, sometimes rather woody at the base, occasionally scandent. Leaves alternate, simple, entire or somewhat lobed. Flowers small, hermaphrodite, bibracteolate, in bracteate spikes or more generally (but not in Pakistan) dense to lax axillary and terminal thyrses (the uppermost frequently forming a panicle), lateral cymes lax to dense and forming sessile clusters, the inflorescence then spiciform. Perianth segments 5, free, equal. Stamens 5, the filaments fused below into a short sheath, the free portions deltoid below and filiform above or (not in our area) f swollen or with teeth projecting on either side of the anther. Ovary with few to many, rarely (not in Pakistan) solitary ovules; style elongate to almost obsolete, stigmas usually 2-3. Capsule circumscissile, sometimes thickened above. Seeds black, usually strongly compressed and shining, roundish, feebly to strongly reticulate, grooved or tuberculate.